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Posted in: The Crow's Nest
The Crow's Nest - Why "Obvious Booking" Does Not Equal "Bad Booking"
By TheCrow
Sep 20, 2013 - 2:13:20 AM

1) Why "Obvious Booking" Does Not Equal "Bad Booking" (09/20/13)

Warning, it's going to be a shorter one today. Had some unexpected things pop up into my schedule that cut my column writing time significantly, but that should all be cleared up in a few days, and I'll be back with something a little more "feature length". Thank you for your understanding.

The IWC is a fickle beast. One second, people want booking decisions to be full of surprises and have the ability to shock us. The next second those same people are complaining that "surprises" aren't good enough and that the company should have gone with a more "obvious" choice. Then, of course, there's the people who are just never happy with any booking choice because they "totally saw it coming a mile away".

Just look at the reactions recently when Randy Orton cashed in his briefcase following Daniel Bryan's WWE Championship victory over John Cena. Lots of us saw it coming, and despite some very entertaining booking since then (including the continued rise of Bryan's popularity) there are people who still think it was a bad idea.

Or on the TNA side of things, look at the current situation following the conclusion of the Bound For Glory Series. Lots of people made the prediction in late-2012, before the tournament had even started, that it would be AJ Styles who would end up victorious, all because of one match stipulation that said Styles would be ineligible for a title match until Bound For Glory in 2013. Sure enough, AJ Styles returned from a hiatus and was entered into the annual tournament, which he did indeed end up winning. Now I'm seeing people who I know for a fact are huge fans of Styles saying that somebody else should have won because "it was too obvious".

My question to all of you is this: why is it that "obvious" booking is so often looked at as "bad" booking?

AJ Styles was the best choice to win the Bound For Glory Series, plain and simple. It just so happens that he was also the most obvious pick. The Chris Sabin experiment failed, Styles had returned to a massive boost in popularity, and TNA was in need of a big name challenger for their biggest prize on their biggest show of the year. Sure, you could write it off as TNA trying to capture the same magic that CM Punk captured with his infamous "pipe bomb" promo, but it's working pretty well so far.

Styles has never been known for his work on the mic, but since returning as the "lone wolf" he's been noticeably improving. Last night on Impact, he managed to cut a promo that had the fans eating out of the palm of his hand. Hell, this booking has even brought out some hidden talent in Dixie Carter, another person who has never been known for their mic work. This "obvious" booking has already led to some good moments, and it still has the potential to lead to great ones. AJ Styles has been waiting over a decade for his career-making moment in TNA, and regardless of how many people "saw this coming", this could be it.

Or what about perhaps the most well known example of obvious booking in wrestling today: any Wrestlemania match involving The Undertaker. From the get-go, it's pretty obvious what's going to happen, but does that mean that no effort should go into making the buildup entertaining? Does that mean that, by default, the match itself is going to suck because we already know who's going to win? Of course not. Just look at how many of those matches have made it near the top of that year's "Match of the Year" lists. Look at the buildups of so many of those matches and how much entertainment value they offered. We all knew that The Undertaker would end up winning, but did that stop us from watching? No, it did not.

Now I don't mean to say that "obvious" booking always means "good" booking, because that is not the case. All I'm saying is that sometimes giving people what they expected can be the right thing to do. In professional wrestling, the outcome is rarely as important as the path that led to it. If that path is boring, the result is irrelevant.

But one of the main reasons I believe in the power of obvious booking is simply that the more often it's used, the more rewarding surprises will be when they happen. If every storyline ends in some kind of twist, we'll end up anticipating twists instead. Do we really want pro wrestling to end up like an M. Night Shyamalan movie? We don't always need something unexpected to happen for the booking to be great. Whether it's AJ Styles winning a tournament, Randy Orton cashing in his title shot, or Undertaker adding yet another victory to his Wrestlemania streak, obvious booking can pay off.

So what do you guys think about this? Where do you stand on the "obvious booking" issue? Are there specific examples of booking decisions you saw coming but still paid off in a big way? As always, I look forward to hearing from you.


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